People often think that every yoga class is the same, with the well-known “flow-style” as the base. There are actually many different styles of yoga and it’s important to understand these differences. You might find you feel more connected to one than the other. In order to progress in your spiritual practice, it’s very helpful to find a tradition you like and stick with, at least for a little while. Here is a quick guide on the different styles that might be offered near you:
- ASHTANGA: this is the system of yoga taught by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois and began in Mysore, India. There is a set sequence of poses that involve synchronized breathing and much more physical demand than other styles of yoga. There are six established series (which are the sequences of poses), each student starts in the primary series and their teacher gives them a new pose when they are ready–it can take longer than 1 year to complete the primary series. In the Mysore style of Ashtanga, it is not lead, but the teacher walks around the (silent) room giving physical adjustments and introducing students to their next pose. Traditionally, students practice 6 days per week – except on new moons and full moons. It is recommended to have a previous background in yoga before attending ashtanga.
- BIKRAM: Bikram Choudhury founded this style of yoga which consists of 26 poses, all of which are performed twice in one class, in a heated 95-105 degree room. Like Ashtanga, Bikram follows a strict sequence. This style of yoga is somewhat controversial, Bikram has trademarked the sequence – which is why some studios are “hot yoga” and others are “Bikram” (his sequence). You will sweat like you’ve never sweat before, the heat promotes intense flexibility.
- IYENGAR: founded by B.K.S. Iyengar, this slower-moving style of yoga promotes a great balance of strength and flexibility. The poses are held longer than other styles and there are tons of props (blocks, straps, cushions, chairs) used for each pose to access hard-to-reach places in the body. This is a good style for people with physical disability, elderly, beginners, advanced students and everyone in between.
- HATHA: Hatha literally means a “physical yoga practice,” this is a classical approach to the foundational yoga poses and techniques. If you see a studio with Hatha on the schedule, you can expect a great overall introduction to the yoga practice, but you might not work up a deep sweat.
- KUNDALINI: this is a beautifully unique style of yoga that incorporates invigorating breathing techniques with chanting and ‘pulsing’ physical movement. The practice is aimed at literally releasing the kundalini energy in your body–which is defined as an energetic supply coiled up like a sleeping snake in the base of your neck, waiting to be released. This practice is very spiritual and helps truly awaken the body.
- RESTORATIVE: a restorative class is quite simply meant to help restore your body and mind. Your teacher will lead you through maybe only 4 to 6 poses in one class, utilizing props, with very strategic positioning to help uplift the body and sink into deep relaxation. It is almost guaranteed you will leave a restorative class feeling new, refreshed, and peaceful!
- YIN: this style of yoga is targeted for the joints, rather than the muscles. You stimulate the connective tissues of the ligaments, bones, joints and fascia. The poses can be held anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes, which is what helps target deeper than the superficial or muscular tissues.
If you see vinyasa flow or power yoga on your local class schedule, you can expect a well-mixed version of Ashtanga and Iyengar yoga. You will flow through a great deal of yoga poses with a large focus on matching your movement with your breathing. You can expect to sweat and have a sweet savasana!
Which style of yoga do you resonate best with? Tell us in the comments below!